Friday, February 8, 2013

Areas of Concern for Elderly Parents or Any Senior.

I found a book that my mother had for awhile. Apparently, I didn't know she had it or else I would have had it out as a resource. I cannot find a printing date on it, though the information seems applicable. It is "AGING PARENTS AND COMMON SENSE - A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR YOU AND YOUR PARENT". It was put together through the Equitable Foundation Inc (the philanthropic part of The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States) and Children of Aging Parents or CAPS. I could not really find much information from The Equitable website & the CAPS website had some info, the last newsletter was from 2008 so I called the phone number to see if they were still around -- they are. The book covers a variety of issues - talking to your parents, where will they live, legal issues, taking care of yourself as a caregiver, etc.
(picture from CAPS website)

One thing that the book covers, reminded me of my visits to the ER with mom. During the initial in-take of information, the nurses and doctors always asked her if anyone was abusing her either physically or emotionally. If she went home the same day, would she be scared to be with someone at home? Which brings us to the problem of elder abuse, which is as it sounds - mistreating an elderly person. This book defines it as: 'assault, threats of assault, verbal abuse, financial exploitation, physical and/or emotional neglect, or sexual abuse' and says usually the abuse from the caretaker rises as the older person's condition worsens. Usually it is unreported due to the elderly parent/person being ashamed, unable to say anything, or fearful that the abuse may get worse if it is reported.

The book reports that The National Center on Elder Abuse lists some indications of abuse as (the website has a some of these):
* burns, bruises or cuts
* dehydration, or malnourished appearance
* anxiety, confusion, withdrawal
* expression of shame, embarrassment or fear
* poor personal hygiene
* over-medication or over-sedation
* sudden bank account withdrawals or closing

If you see anything like this with someone, please contact your local social service agency.


From caretaker abuse to self-abuse:

Alcohol abuse is seen sometimes as old-age complaints -- it can show itself as tremors, gastritis, confusion, hypertension, depression. The book goes on to describe other indicators as:

* burns on hands and extremities from cooking
* evidence of repeated falls
* other unexplained accidents
* fear or avoidance of doctors and dentists
* paranoid behavior
* mood swings
* malnutrition
* preference for isolation, secretiveness
* inability to remember particular periods of time (blackouts)

(picture from TCSAP website)

The book identifies The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention as mentioning the following 'cautions': (I tried to find these on the website but there were so many different reports that this may be a compilation of them)

* age-related stress such as bereavement, unemployment, a move to a new place; keep in mind with aging comes a change in metabolism so they are more susceptible to alcohol's affects
* there can be an interaction between alcohol and both prescription and over-the-counter medication; have a frank talk with the doctor and/or pharmacist.
* try to lesson the loneliness, isolation and depression - keep them involved in family, spiritual, and community affairs; it may be possible for them to volunteer in some programs to increase their self-worth and self-esteem. My mom belonged to a senior group that met every week and had day trips; she was still pretty good in speaking Portuguese so a pre-school teacher I know had her come in her class to work with a student new to the area who spoke no English, to help translate and learn English. They formed a great bond and 'Miss Lucy' always looked forward to going to be with the kids.

Alcoholism can be beat but you probably need outside help. Talk to his/her doctor for the best treatment.


Depression is big among the elderly. Aging is usually not the cause but ailments of the elderly can be. These could be:

*chronic pain, disability, dependence, isolation, fear
* some medications like steroids and meds for the treatment of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes
* loss of peers or loved ones which may cause a long mourning time
* keeping any fear and /or negative feelings inside.

This too can be treated with their doctor's help. There may be a good counselling service nearby or maybe your parent can speak with their spiritual leader. Sometimes just time helps. Either way - best to get to the bottom of things before conditions worsen.

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